New study traces use of silver currency in southern Levant to Middle Bronze Age

A new study has traced the use of silver as a means of payment in the southern Levant region, which mainly includes modern-day Israel, Palestine and Jordan, back to the Middle Bronze Age about 3,600 years ago.

The study, jointly conducted by the University of Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, thus brings forward the use of silver for payments in the ancient southern Levant region by about 500 years, according to a statement from the University of Haifa.

The use of silver for payments was already known to have existed in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BC, but in the southern Levant, the prevailing view was that this only became common in the Iron Age beginning from the 12th century BC, the researchers noted.

After examining hoards of silver pieces discovered in several locations over the years, the researchers confirmed their use for payment in terms of their shape, sheer quantity, and the public locations where they were found such as a storeroom or by a city gate, according to the study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Many of the silver chips looked like bracelets that had been split into different sizes so they were not intended for ornamental purposes, the researchers explained.

The pieces were usually found together, wrapped in cloth, and kept in an earthen jar, again indicating the purpose of their use, they added.

The transition to an economy based on silver pieces which do not spoil and are lighter than grain has contributed to the urban and economic development of the southern Levant, they concluded. ■

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